‘It’s On Us’: Sexual assault culture on campuses
Conservative radio host Dennis Prager made a bold claim at his St. Petersburg college appearance to get out the vote for the governor’s race when he declared that rape culture does not exist. The claims, Prager alleged, of the existence of a rape culture are a feminist myth in order to garner Democratic votes.
“What do you cite to sell me this nonsense?” Prager said. “One in five women are sexually assaulted on campus. Do you know what sexual assault means? Did you ever look at what counts? An unwanted kiss is considered sexual assault. I’m stunned it’s only one in five. Four out of five women have not gotten an unwanted kiss? My wife gets unwanted kisses every so often.”
Despite Prager’s dismissals, unwanted sexual contact, even from a romantic partner, is recognized as a form of sexual assault, with many colleges taking a negative stance against precisely those actions. And although Prager may not consider these sexual assault incidents a serious crime, the White House takes a different stance. In early September, the Obama administration launched the “It’s On Us” campaign, urging college students to take a pledge to to end rape culture on campus. The New College Student Alliance is holding a tabling day on Nov. 21 to engage New College students in the pledge.
\“The NCSA hasn’t really been involved in sexual assault things before,” thesis student
and NCSA President Cassandra Corrado said. Previous sexual assault awareness campaigns had primarily been hosted through the Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX) chapter on campus, which Corrado also leads. “It’s part of an initiative to get student government involved.”
“It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable,” President Obama said in his Sept. 19 announcement of the campaign.
The statistics are as follows:
About one in five women are sexually assaulted over the course of their college career.
Among college women, nine out of ten victims know their offender. Less than five percent of completed or attempted rapes are reported to the police. Freshmen and sophomores are at greater risk than juniors and seniors. Alcohol is used in an estimated 25 percent of assault cases.
Part of the It’s On Us campaign includes encouraging students to be aware of potential dangerous situations that their peers might be in. For example, some of the suggestions include “If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely,” and “Never blame the victim.” The campaign also included the creation of the website notalone.gov, a support website for victims of sexual assault.
“Our event is slightly more inclusive than the White House campaign,” Corrado said, referring to the NCSA’s inclusion of domestic violence and sexual assault that mention non-heterosexual or male-on-female cases.
The New College Board of Trustees, with the help of Corrado, also recently pushed through changes to the Student Code of Conduct that included rewording phrases to take the implication away from an accuser for lying, and add language that would also punish someone accused of sexual assault if they are found to lie about their innocence in their case.
Other schools participating in the It’s On Us campaign include the University of Michigan, Penn State, University of Iowa, Purdue – in total over 233 colleges. The Big Ten conferences, NCAA, MTV, VH1 and other organizations also signed the pledge.
So while Dennis Prager does not consider sexual assault serious enough to worry about, it is clear that plenty of other people do.